Nerves? Perhaps. But nerves of steel. Having given up 14 runs in the 17th over, Parveen Kumar displayed admirable composure to bowl a four-run, double-wicket final over and seal an amazing eight-run win for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Two teams that met in Durban at contrasting positions in the IPL traded blows for 40 overs of a pulse-setting Twenty20 and, when it came to the crunch, Bangalore threw the biggest blow, derailing Kings XI Punjab from 70 for no loss to 137.
To put this finish in perspective, you have to understand where Punjab were placed for more than two-thirds of this game. Having stunned Bangalore with a hat-trick spread over two overs, Yuvraj singh promoted himself to open the innings in place of Ravi Bopara, departed for England duty. He struggled initially against a clever Praveen's changes of pace but the arrival of Jesse Ryder and Roelof van der Merwe brought out the beast. Yuvraj found the middle of his bat and some sweet timing with a club off Ryder past mid-on, and van der Werwe's first ball was dumped over long-on for six. From being 18 from 19 balls, Yuvraj whistled to fifty from 33 with three more sixes, one off Ryder and two off Anil Kumble. The couple off Kumble recalled that innings at this same venue.
Yuvraj fell two deliveries before the tactical break, attempting a fifth six but top-edging Kumble to midwicket. Then, as has happened so often, the seven-and-a-half-minute interval claimed another wicket. Karan Goel had been a silent accumulator while Yuvraj led Punjab's best opening stand of the season but his attempt to fill his captain's shoes didn't work. The wobble was on when Simon Katich, in his first game of 2009, was run out when called for a risky single by Kumar Sangakkara.
Punjab needed 62 from seven overs when Mahela Jayawardene joined Sangakkara. It seemed still achievable. Yet Punjab didn't manage a boundary in the 15th and 16th overs, bowled by Ryder and Kumble, and, after carving consecutive fours in the 17th, bowled by Praveen, Jayawardene scooped to point. Punjab still needed 30 from 17 balls. Game on.
van der Merwe followed up the wicket-taking delivery with four byes, a full toss swatted for four by Irfan Pathan and a wide to ratchet up the tension. At the end of that over the equation was 17 from 12.
Enter Kumble, who was Bangalore captain for the day. Sangakkara missed the next ball and was bowled after that by a googly. Kumble isn't a champion for nothing and, by conceding only four runs in the penultimate over, left Punjab needing 13 from the last. Talk about tension.
Praveen bowled a dot. Irfan took a breath, looked up, and slapped the next ball through point for four. Third ball was a lovely slow ball that sneaked under the bat. Irfan lofted the fourth down to long-on and, with the fifth, Praveen bowled Piyush Chawla. Bangalore had sealed a superb win after posting a disappointing total.
Rewind to the first major highlight of this epic game. Yuvraj hadn't been contributing with the bat this season, so he decided to make an impact with the ball. With the last two balls of the 11th over of Bangalore's innings, Yuvraj dismissed Robin Uthappa and Jaques Kallis and achieved the fourth IPL hat-trick with the first ball of the 13th, trapping Mark Boucher with another quick arm ball.
Bangalore were struggling after early losses - Ryder again fell in the first over - and needed Kallis to last the full quota of overs. He and the recalled Uthappa had put on 42 when Yuvraj struck. Having strayed in line early in his second over Yuvraj tried a flatter, faster delivery and Uthappa miscued one to the deep. The batsmen crossed as the ball went up in the air, but Kallis' tentative footwork against an arm ball resulted in the sound of timber. Mark Boucher came in but didn't last as Yuvraj came back and fired in another slider. Punjab were cock-a-hoop.
After Yuvraj struck, a pugnacious cameo from van der Merwe - which included an amazing six in which he looked to square leg but hit over extra cover - gave the innings some shape. Abdulla's figures were really bruised by van der Merwe, who slammed six, four, six in three balls, but he had his number and became the highest wicket-taker this season. Abdulla yorked Kumble in the final over and should have had five but Chawla at third man spilled a running catch. Abdulla smiled proudly when he donned the purple cap for leading the wickets tally.
But in a game that swung to and fro, Bangalore regrouped superbly when it really mattered, and their grins were more emphatic than anything seen all day.